This weekend, at a vintage fair in New York, Iris Apfel bought an Edwardian paisley coat, a pair of trousers, and two jackets—one from Moschino and one from Comme des Garçons. “I asked the young man which collection the Comme des Garçons jacket was from and he said, ‘2016,’ scoffed Apfel, sporting a larger-than-life necklace made of ladybug-shaped beads. “But you know what, I don’t give a damn if it was made yesterday. If I like it, what difference does it make?”
The fair in question was UBM Fashion’s second of the year (the first was in May), and this time around, the trade show included a new vintage exhibition presented by Intermezzo Collections. It was also open to the public for the first time ever—a $20 ticket got you access to 20 vintage vendors across the world, as well as a chance to meet Norma Kamali and Apfel, who both had their own booths with hand-picked jewelry and apparel for sale. (This is in addition to the wide assortment of hard-to-find pieces from Issey Miyake, Gucci, Ann Demeulemeester, Missoni, and, yes, Comme.)
“We dipped our toes in the water with vintage in May,” said Peter Berta, director of Intermezzo Collections. “I just wanted to see what the reaction was, and truthfully, it was the most talked-about section of my show. I had retailers coming up to me and saying, ‘Peter, this was the best thing that you could have added. I love this. I’ve always wanted to know how to get it, but I never really knew how to obtain vintage.’”
In addition to a more extensive crop of vintage (vendors included Morphew Concept, Dusty Rose Vintage, The Wayward Collection, and Brent Edward Vintage), shoppers and retailers were also treated to trend presentations, Q&As with industry insiders, and a panel discussion featuring Apfel, Kamali, and Lord & Taylor vice president and fashion director Stephanie Solomon. Everyone was told to wear a vintage piece.
"This is getting bigger and it's getting better," Berta said.
Mixing in a consumer-facing element at a trade show typically reserved for the B2B set was key this time around, he added. “Since vintage doesn’t need to be produced, it works. By allowing the consumer in, it creates more of a community and gives a group of people who were never really invited to our shows an opportunity to shop things they love and that will tell stories. We are just adding another layer of commerce to the show.”
Solomon added that she feels optimistic about the vintage industry. “I think millennials and Gen Y-ers are starting to take a look. If you look at some of the numbers, it’s holding true.” Even big department stores are getting in on the game—Elizabeth & James’ vintage installation at Bergdorf Goodman, on view through August 14, immediately comes to mind.
For Kamali—who, as you know, is no stranger to vintage, having just hosted a massive archive sale at her New York City flagship back in March—the show is just getting started. "I think next year, this should be one big fashion party where everybody dresses up. There's a red carpet and people get prizes for the most imaginative costume clothing idea,” she suggested. “How much fun would that be? It's such a great excuse to have a good time, and I think if you want to understand vintage, seeing people enjoying it and being very creative with it is the way to appreciate the possibilities of vintage."
While posing for pictures (attendees were treated to a photo with Apfel after purchasing a piece of jewelry), the icon took a break to answer a question about her shopping habits. "You go to a store, you see something, you like it, it fits you, you can afford it, you need it. I don't have any favorite pieces. I just buy everything I love." Spoken like a true shopper.